Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catalina Taco Salads

I have grown up eating this Taco Salad. Literally, from birth I can remember the crunch of Fritos and the zesty tang of the Catalina Dressing. It's a favorite summertime entree that is hearty enough to fill you, yet light enough to save plenty of room for that homemade ice cream for dessert (Or Magnum and Klondike bars that might perhaps be spilling out of your freezer in every flavor. Just PERHAPS, I'm not committing to anything).

If only every meal could be this easy. Wistful Sigh....

Anyway, let's get on with the show - you're ready to put those pot roast and pot pie recipes to the back of the stack for chilly days that are months away. Let's focus on this tasty treat that makes you say Ole! - Catalina Style.

It's a basic taco salad...sans the sour cream and salsa. Ready?

1 pound of ground beef, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 packet of taco seasoning
5 cups of green leaf lettuce - rinsed, dried and chopped
1 can of kidney or pinto beans - drained
1 large tomato, chopped
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag of Fritos
1 bottle of Catalina dressing (look for the red stuff made by Kraft)

After cooking your ground beef, add the taco seasoning packet and stir well. That is the hardest, most labor intensive part of this entire meal. Next, you need to make an important I make one massive salad that everyone scoops from for their meal? OR do I make individual salads for each person? Let's make individual salads this round, shall we? In each bowl, layer the following: lettuce, ground taco meat, some beans, some tomato and some cheese. THEN you put on a big massive handful of Fritos. THEN you pour Catalina dressing on top and THEN you take two forks and toss it all up so the dressing goes through the entire salad and no frito is left behind when it comes to the saucy goodness of the dressing.

NOW, if you were to make this in one massive bowl and allow everyone to treat it family style, follow all of the above steps except for adding the Fritos. Let each person add their own. Why? Well, should you have leftovers, the Fritos will be soggy and gross the next day. You won't want to eat the salad because of the sogginess, but will feel compelled to because you can't stand wasting food. Then you regret not just allowing everyone to put their own on their salads in the first place and saving you the discomfort of eating soggy fritos. Trust me on this. Each Frito to their own salads!

Enjoy folks - this is a good one!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Caterpillar Cake!

This weekend we celebrated my youngest son's 2nd birthday. I decided early on in life that I was not a 'cake' person and so there really wasn't a maternal need in me to ever bake and decorate a cake for my children - I could always lean on the creativity of a bakery or ice cream cake creation. That was, until I had children of my own. Suddenly, it was as though I had a quest set before me to come up with totally adorable cakes that I made myself and decorated so that my children would remember and enjoy talking about them in the years to come.

Granted, I'm still not a cake person; give me a pie or torte or something crazy and decadent. But I certainly gained tremendous satisfaction out of creating this cute little caterpillar for my favorite two year old...and by the looks of it, he did too.

How did you do it CC? How DID you do it?? Well, it was time consuming, but simpler than I thought. I baked 4 individual round cakes in oven-safe capuccino mugs and iced them with a star tip. The orange dots are reece's pieces. I made the eyes out of white chocolate and milk chocolate. The antenna's are fun curly candles and the orange lips are two orange starbursts. How fun is that? Happy Birthday Denton!

Have a delicious day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Peach Cobbler and Great Aunt Blanch

Yesssssssssssssss! Not only was yesterday the first day of Summer, it was also my husband's birthday. I whipped up his favorite dessert - a fresh, homemade peach cobbler and all I can say is YUMMMM. After purchasing fresh picked peaches and letting them ripen in my window for several days - warding off 2 year old, 4 year old and 30-something year old scavengers begging to eat them, yesterday afternoon I set out to bake perfection.

One minor road bump. Blanch. What? Blanch who? The only Blanch I know is a great aunt on my dad's side of the family. My recipe called for the peaches to be blanched. Undeterred, I followed the instructions to a 'T' and am now allllllll about blanching! Read on and we'll make a cobbler together and learn a somewhat foreign cooking term named after a lady named Blanch.

Here we go!

Ingredients for peach cobbler-y summertime deliciousness:
4 cups worth of peaches (6 ish peaches?)
1 c. flour
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. white sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 T. brown sugar
5 T. butter
A sprinkling of cinnamon

How to make it:
Start by blanching your peaches. Ummmmm. Ok, this is not hard and by all means makes the peeling part of peaches a breeze! Take a stock pot and fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Sounds easy...Add your peaches (peel and all) and let them boil 3-5 minutes.

Have a large bowl filled with water and ice cubes standing by. After boiling for 3-5 minutes we're going to shock the daylights out of the fruit by carefully removing them from the boiling water and placing them in the ice water. This is where the magic happens - the skin is pulling away from the fruit, which will make your life so much easier in about 3 minutes.

Guess what? You just blanched your peaches! Take them out of the water and use your fingers to gently peel away the skin. It slides right off! Oh the joy - think of the endless blanching possibilities here - peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots. Peeling as you know it, is a thing of the past. It's ALL about blanching.

I then slice the fruit and remove the pits - leaving nice big juicey chunks of peaches sitting in a bowl, waiting for you to add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a light sprinkling of cinnamon. The peaches are already chock full of sweetness, so you don't need to add as much sugar as some recipes call for. Goodness knows you already put a cup of sugar in the topping! Let's move to that step next.

While the peaches enjoy sitting in their bowl, prepare your cobbler topping. Combine the flour, 1 cup of white sugar, buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir until is smooth.

At this point, you're ready to assemble and bake! Put the butter in a 9x9 dish and allow it to melt in the microwave for a minute.

Put the peaches and all their juicey goodness on top of the melted butter and pour the topping over them.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until your cobbler topping is cooked through and nice and brown.

Serve in small dessert bowls with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Goat Cheese and Artichoke Spread

This weekend was filled with Father's Day Celebrations and on Saturday I fixed a feast to honor my dad and husband. The menu was a huge success!

Goat Cheese and Artichoke Spread with Whole Wheat Crackers started us off on the right foot. Goat cheese was an acquired taste for me, but now that I've acquired it, I can't eat enough of it. I dream about it, crave it, try to incorporate it wherever I can when cooking. Love Goat Cheese.

Moving on to Shrimp and Steak Kabobs with Zuchinni, Grape Tomatoes and Mushrooms, Sutton Rice and a mouth watering Tomato Basil Tart (it's on my catering menu and worth every penny!) the entree was met with requests for 2nds, 3rds and 4ths. Dessert was individual flourless chocolate tartes that clung with a death grip to the sides of my ramekins but melted in your mouth once you got it there. Simply amazing. I'm still dreaming of it.

The Goat Cheese and Artichoke Spread was so delicious, I could've made a meal out of it and literally only took 5 minutes to prepare. I wasn't even hardly able to get a decent picture of it before it was eaten to smithereens!

So here's what you need to replicate this show stopper of an appetizer: (Thanks to Emeril Lagasse for the inspiration for this recipe that I tweaked. A lot.).
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 large log of goat cheese
2 T. olive oil
2 t. lemon juice
3/4 t. minced garlic
1 t. parsley
2 T. minced fresh basil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. Cayenne pepper
Crackers - I used Triscuits, but would recommend baguette bread for this too.

In a food processor, combine all of the above ingredients but the crackers. Process until smooth and creamy. Place in a nonreactive bowl (ie stay away from metal!) and refrigerate until ready to serve with your favorite cracker.

How easy, amazing and delicious is that?


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Buttermilk Baked Mac 'n Cheese

I'm on a buttermilk kick of late. I bought a quart of it, only needed a cup of it and am now fixing additional recipes that incorporate buttermilk so it doesn't go to waste. So far, I've made cupcakes, ranch dressing that was so good I want to haul off and drink it and some delicious Buttermilk Baked Mac 'n Cheese.

It fixed this recipe with very low expectations. Many of the recipes I've tried have had a considerable addition of steps from this one and it seemed a bit too easy to be marvelous. The fam was pleasantly surprised and we have gobbled it to our hearts content.

Here's whatcha need:
3 c. cooked elbow macaroni noodles
2 c. grated cheddar cheese (I use extra sharp since it has such a good bite)
4 T. finely (and I mean FINELY) minced onion
1 c. buttermilk (let this get to room temp please)
1 t. pepper
1/4 c. butter
salt to taste
A greased 2 quart casserole dish. Ready? Ready!

How to fix it:
Grate two cups of cheese (it has a better taste than the pre grated) and mince up your onion to microscopicness.

Once you have boiled and drained your noodles, to that very same stockpot, add in all of the above ingredients (less 1/2 c. of the cheese).

How easy is this? Now pour it into your greased casserole dish and bake it uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes.

Once you pull it out, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top and put a lid on your dish to trap the heat inside and allow it to melt the cheese on top and then serve it up! The buttermilk gives it a richer taste than regular milk and combines well with the sharp cheddar to give you a tangy bite of amazingness.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shish Kabobs!

One fun way to grill out in the Summertime is by making Shish Kabobs. Not only are they fun to say, but are fun to eat, healthy and delicious! At the beach this past week I made chicken kabobs and tonight I'm making steak kabobs. Grab your favorite veggies and hang out with me for a bit - I'll show you how to make this dazzling dinner in no time flat.

Whatcha Need:
Wooden or Metal Kabob Skewers
Italian Salad Dressing
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Your favorite veggies (yellow squash and zuchinni, mushrooms, onion, cherry or grape tomatoes, red yellow or green pepper all work great and hold up well while grilling)

How you make it:

Right after feeding the kids breakfast, I cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and throw them in tupperware with a sealable lid and into the frig alll dayyy lonnnnggg after dousing them in whatever oil based Italian salad dressing I have on hand.

After playing super mom all day, it's time to make dinner. Much like the chicken, I cut up the veggies in bite sized pieces and pull out my skewers. Some people like to soak their wooden skewers in water while cutting up the veggies so the wood doesn't burn when you put it on the grill. Just a helpful tip for those who remember that step. I often overlook it and they still turn out just fine.

Now that everything is chopped, resist challenging your son to a duel involving kabob skewers and begin sliding chicken and vegetables onto the skewers in random order. I drizzle more Italian dressing over the entire skewer at this point - so the veggies don't feel left out. Once you have a hearty stack of beautiful kabobs - call your husband into the kitchen for the plate and have him use his manly grilling skills to dazzle and amaze even the faint of heart.

I serve these over Sutton Rice and the crowd goes wild!

Now I mentioned fixing steak kabobs for dinner tonight. I have an amazing marinade from my friend Kasey, who fixed this for dinner one night and I went stark raving mad until she handed over the recipe.

Steak Kabob Marinade:
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
1 T. olive oil
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. minced onion
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. pepper

Combine all the above ingredients and this is good for 2 pounds of steak. My marinade was fixed this morning after feeding my children cupcakes for breakfast. It looks like this:

And then I cut up the steak (sirloin is a good cut of meat for this) and it's happily marinating away in my frig as we speak and looks like this:

Can't wait for dinner - have a great day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cherry Almond Cupcakes - Made to Order!

Howdy Friends! I've just returned from a week at the beach with my family and have gazillions of things to share with you. Ok, maybe not THAT many, but enough to keep this week packed full of some fun tidbits to keep you eating well through these hot summer days. Nevermind that summer doesn't officially start until June 21 - I consider it 100% SUMMERTIME!

I launched my catering biz and am happy to share my first order with you! It was off the map a bit as the recipient was dying for cherry cupcakes. I haven't put these on my menu, but might just have to! Whipping up a Cherry Almond Cupcake, these fun little bites of delight have a cherry baked into the center and the Cherry Almond Buttercream frosting is the perfect 'icing on the cake'!

These cupcakes were made to order as a thank you gift (what a fun idea - thanking someone with cupcakes!). They are light, amazingly delicious and I'm glad I made a few extra so I could enjoy them as well.

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Easy Peasy Caprese

The tastes of Summertime are among my favorite. Fresh vegetables from the garden or local Farmer's Markets, grilling out, homemade ice cream. There's nothing finer. I stopped by one of my favorite Farmer's Market Stands the other day and bought a bag full of red, ripe, fresh juicy tomatoes and have been serving Caprese Salads with almost every dinner this week. So good, so easy - here is my version of this summertime staple:

1 large tomato
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (or a big block of Sargento if you're in a bind)
A handful of fresh basil (thankfully we're growning our own)
Parmesan Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Cheez-It Crackers

Directions (makes two servings)
Slice the tomato into 6 slabs and put 3 per plate
Slice the mozzarella to the same thickness as your tomato slices and place them on the tomatoes. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and mozzarella. Rough chop some fresh basil and sprinkle it on top. Then, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the top. I love to grate fresh parmesan cheese on top and throw on some crushed Cheez-It crackers for the grande finale.

It looks like a delicious mess, and tastes even better.

I couldn't pass up fresh zuchinni as I was picking out my tomatoes, so last night I sliced 3 of them and sauteed them in olive oil with half of a chopped onion. Since the parmesan cheese was sitting there staring at me, I added some to the top of each serving and had a blissful dinner. The caprese salad and zuchinni went perfectly with my buffalo chicken squares.

Stop by your local farmer's market or roadside stand for some delicious treats to get your Summertime flavor on too!

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Launch.

Well, today is the big day! I've officially launched the catering aspect of The Musing Foodie. It's a BIG leap of faith and I look forward to seeing what happens. My nifty menu has been added as a page to this blog - gaze to the left and click on the link. I'd love to hear what you think about it!

It was a lot of fun to put it together and I drooled through it one item at a time, perhaps even gaining a pound or two in the process. They are all delicious recipes to me and I hope you enjoy them as well.

My basic concept is to provide catering that will supplement your parties and social engagements where you might run short handed. Need some cookies, cupcakes, sandwiches? I can help! How about a dazzling dessert for a special dinner? Oh yes! Everything will be presented in tasteful disposable containers so you do still get to use your mom's favorite serving plate to keep with your theme. (I know that was keeping you up at night). If you need the whole event caterered, that's right up my alley as well. Bring it on!

Here's the fine print: At this point in the venture, I don't plan on manning any events - my family is paramount and nights and weekends away from them just aren't part of the picture. It will be considered on a case by case basis, but is the exception to the norm. I also am still just a local yocal too. Shipping is being considered down the road.

Stay tuned on my facebook page - The Musing Foodie, as I chat about what's going on in the kitchen and any fun foodie giveaways that like to surface every now and then.

Above all, thanks for your support on this fun project. It's delicious good fun.

Be blessed!